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Saturday, April 30, 2011

New wine, old wineskins?

Yesterday we had ten people at morning prayer. Only three were Society members. Things improved (?) at Evening Prayer when we had four Society members, but then we had 22 visitors.

Our guests were permanent deacons and their wives from around the United States who came to Maryknoll for a weekend symposium on the diaconate and mission. Organized by Deacon Steve DeMartino from our vocations office, this annual event helps foster a mission spirit among the growing number of permanent deacons.

I gotta say, I was impressed with the way the deacons' wives deftly navigated the macrame complexities of the breviary ribbons during the Octave of Easter.

Maybe this (many guests/few Maryknollers) is a foreshadowing of a not-so-bad future where a small and (one can only hope, still) vital part of the Maryknoll Society acts as a focal point and catalyst for a much larger and dynamic ministry to mission by other groups.

But between here and there there is fixed a great abyss. We have to somehow slough off our present situation if new possibilities are to emerge. Getting to there from here won't be easy. Or pretty.

Mistake #1 happened right after our building renovations ended and there was much hope-filled talk of a Mission Center, with various groups coming to imbibe the mission spirit here at the Knoll whilst planning ministries for the new millennium. That plan required setting aside the R-Wing rooms exclusively for these visitors. Alas, ensconced missioners (an oxymoron if ever there was one) refused to move to other sections of the building reserved for permanent members. The result was that when visitors come, we must intersperse them all over the building.

Mistake #2 happened as our headquarters slowly devolved over the years into a retirement home. The ever-growing tail has been wagging the shrinking dog more and more. As one very influential Maryknoller noted, "We owe members a place to stay, but it doesn't have to be here at the Center." But if the Administration couldn't get Members to move to another wing, can you imagine them trying to get Members to move away altogether? One solution may be to empty the R Wing of Maryknollers by attrition. Assign no Members a room there, either temporarily or permanently. Should some die-hards dig in their heels, they forfeit any right to complain about the noise or disruptions caused by visitors. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

Mistake #3 is the on-going lack of communication, conversation and transparency, those lofty ideals that wafted from the last Chapter and have remained elusive ever since. Oh, we have communication, usually one way and only after the cat is out of the bag. Conversation of any import seldom makes it past the salad bar. And forget transparency. That too seems one-sided, where hoi polloi are expected to be totally open about all our plans without any reciprocity, like passing through the emotional equivalent of a full-body scanner.

Case in point: no one in the dining room seems to know just where Roy Bourgeois stands vis-a-vis the Society. (Or rather, thems that know aren't talking). Did the Second Letter get sent? Did the Third Letter get sent? What happens if too much time elapses between letters and there is no action? Of course, we'll find out what happened just as soon as the National Catholic Reporter tells us.

In the meantime, as we prepare for our Regional Assembly at the end of May, will anyone dare suggest discussing a radical idea: that the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, as it is currently defined and established, can no longer meet the challenges of announcing the Reign of God nor fulfill the demands of mission in our time ?

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